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25 September 2022 Blog Insight Podcast ERP Solutions Dynamics 365

How is the utilities industry changing? Digitisation, Decarbonisation and Decentralisation

The utilities sector is a hot topic of contention across the globe right now. Energy prices are soaring, climate change is fuelling decarbonisation, and the once traditional & paper-centric industry is now playing catch-up with the fast-moving digital world.

In the latest episode of Beyond the Document, we sit down with an expert in the utilities space to discuss how the industry is changing and the key trends which are emerging.

‘Beyond the Document’ is Formpipe’s monthly podcast which delves deeper into the world of Output, Document and Customer Communications Management.

This month, we aim to help listeners understand the global challenges currently faced by the energy & utilities sector. Read on to see a breakdown of what you can expect.

Who is on the show?

Joining Formpipe’s Ben Saxton (Head of Customer Success), is Ferranti’s Mar Joba. She is Product Manager for MECOMS 365 - a cloud platform hosted on Microsoft Dynamics, which is specifically designed to be used in the utilities industry.

MECOMS serves customers across Europe, the Middle East and Asia, with the main focus of streamlining business processes and customer service within the utility & energy space.

What topics are discussed?

Output management challenges – The utilities industry is very much regulated, with many factors involved in the process of providing energy to customers. Mar explains how this adds complexity to creating billing documents and delivering customer communication.

Rising energy prices – We’re now in a situation where energy costs are escalating across the world. This is an issue for suppliers and end-users, with scrutiny from the public and the media. Ben and Mar discuss the factors which are driving this.

The 3 D’s of the future for the utility sector:

  • Digitisation – As a long-running and traditional industry, the speed of digitisation has been slower than most. Covid sped things up, but how is the sector driving digital change?
  •  
  • Decarbonisation – Concerns surrounding climate change have led to less dependency on carbon-based resources and the rise of ‘electrification’. More people are buying electric cars, investing in solar power, and choosing greener ways to live. This means the industry is continually trying to find new ways to generate energy.
  •  
  • Decentralisation – Mar discusses how environmental considerations have also steered less dependency on a small number of players who produce energy, and how the Ukraine war also means having less reliance on Russian gas resources.

Going paperless – This industry is typically a paper intensive one, particularly with billing and communicating the ‘advanced amount’. While there’s still a traditional mindset, Mar explains how there is encouragement from many to go digital. From apps to self-service portals, the effort is there, however there’s obviously regulatory aspects to contend with.

Cloud technology – As part of the move to digital, there’s also now a focus on transitioning to the cloud and more open architecture.

Consumer vs prosumer – More and more people are now generating their own energy and are therefore ‘prosumers’. Mar discusses how customers are now installing solar panels, and if they need more power than they’re generating then they take it from the grid. This can create complexity when it comes to billing and breaking down the relevant data needed for document generation.

Smart meters – In the past when traditional meters were the only norm, customer might receive their consumption data once a year after the manual meter read was performed. Today, with the introduction of smart meters, meter data can be sent remotely multiple times a day. How do energy companies treat this huge amount of data coming in and which data do they use to communicate with customers?

The future of MECOMS – As a platform that really touches the core processes of the utility industry, Mar explains how the future involves building an architecture that can easily connect with different players that have deep expertise in specific areas. For example, Formpipe has expertise in document generation. MECOMS will act as a central hub of operations for the utility industry, connecting with partners like us, and using open architecture, to bring more flexibility and power to consumers.

Quiz

A smart meter is capable of sending data remotely at regular intervals without any human intervention. What is the shortest frequency they typically send meter data?

  1. Once a day
  2. Every hour
  3. Every quarter of an hour

To listen to the episode, head to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or simply press play at the top of this article.